Earlier this week, I posted my review of the new littleBits STEAM set, and I’ve already had a few pertinent questions. I love the bits in this kit and I especially love the manual that comes with it. One of the best things about the manual is how it helps students understand the real world applications they can recreate with littleBits projects. Plus, it is chocked full of ideas for inventing and prototyping.
But what age is best? And how many kits would you need for your space?
The kit claims it is ideal for grades 3-8. So I wondered, how would my high school students respond? (Keep in mind that we already have a littleBits Pro-Library.)
So I left the kit out yesterday as a passive program. First block a student decided to build the throwing arm and quickly moved from following that project, to coming up with his own ideas.
He’s decided to build a double jointed contraption. Here the student is testing out connecting the servo motor and the DC motor and not quite getting the result he wants. Which is a good thing. This made him brainstorm more ideas and decide to keep working on this project over the next couple of days. We set aside his work on the project shelf and I look forward to seeing how he ends up improving his ideas.
The manual and the accessory pack are helping him see littleBits in a new way. Utilizing this accessory for the throwing arm project even has him thinking about designing his own accessory on our 3D printer.
Another group of students came in later in the morning and decided to attempt an art machine. I came by a few times to see how they were progressing and noticed they weren’t following the instructions, but instead, were using those instructions as a spring board for their own art car. They didn’t want their art machine to make scribbles, they wanted a perfect circle. Plus, the students had broken up into separate groups and one group decided to tinker with the Synth bits.
(Ironically, we have a Perfect Circle Machine with littleBits as one of our projects!)
I love seeing how just a few guided instructions were leading these students to new ideas. One of my goals in our library is to give students new skill sets. I want them to fill their toolbox with new skills and then use that knowledge to be more creative and become active producers in our world and not just passive consumers. One way I see that happening is by learning how things work and by making and completing different types of projects. This is one of the reasons why I’m working on a makerspace project book with the #superlibrarianhubs! We want making and invention to be accessible to all of our students (and for your students too). We like to give our students just a little nudge toward innovation by helping them put new tools in their toolbox. After all, learning how things work is a foundational step in the invention cycle.
So, what age would I suggest is ideal for this STEAM Student Set? I saw my 7 year old loving it and my high school students springing toward new ideas. I’m going to have to say this is quickly becoming one of my most favorite littleBits kits since the Space kit! I am not going to rush out and buy a ton of these because we already have the Pro Library, but if I didn’t, I might think about buying these sets instead of the massive Pro Library. Although, this set will definitely need a stronger organization system than the box it comes in! My high schoolers were pretty rough on the packaging in just the one day!
Bottom line? Preferred Ages: 7-75
This is good for any-aged makerspace! (Academic libraries, this would be an excellent resource for your pre-service teachers in the education program.)
But how much should we buy?
Well, this depends…. do you see yourself using this resource in full classes? Or in small stations? Maybe as a passive program?
When people ask me which littleBits to buy, I often refer to my massive collection (aka the Pro Library), but I also love the Space kit and the Synth kit. I’ll be adding this STEAM set to my list of favorite kits because I love the included bits. (I’m a nerd for sensors). But how many will you need for your class? or your space?
What you buy is up to you and your students. What do they want your students to learn? What are the goals of your makerspace? How do you envision rolling out learning with littleBits?
It’s important you ask yourself this question:
So form some goals and a steering committee (I’ll have more on this in the book #thesuperlibrarianhubs and I are writing with Diana Rendina), and then align your purchases with the goals you’ve created for your makerspace.